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Archive for January, 2009

Tid bit

 

(Extracted from “Of Two Minds”)

Chris Martenson (see his website) defined money as a claim on future human labour. I like that.

In order for there to be future human labour, do we need banks?

No.

Do we need Cars, superannuation funds and the stock market.

No.

Do we need food and a means to get it to where it is needed to fuel the humans who do the labour?

Yes. Of course.

Let’s just say that money is a claim on food and water FIRST. Everything else is really only parsley on the plate making the world look good.

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It used to be that not that long ago, governments didn’t actually do everything.  In fact they didn’t really do much at all.  The surprising thing really is just how quickly we have gotten used to government having its fingers in everything.  It is all relative I suppose, in OUR lifetimes things have stayed pretty constant, or at least the incremental creep has been so slow as to be  overlooked – slowly broiling the frog.  But looking back to the start of the 20th Century, governments then were very pale shadows of what they are now.  What was considered the legitimate domain of the ruling institutions was surprising limited and pretty loosely defined as well.  Which is what makes some of the achievements by the leading powers during the 19th Century all the more remarkable.  The British managed to forge a world wide empire upon which the sun never set, with a Foreign Office that was smaller than a middling sized modern embassy.

I will grant a number of points though.  What governments basically used to do was look after the interests of the ruling elite and run the military (arguably the same thing).  So, not what you would call government of the people – for the people, at all.  Looking after the welfare of the nation meant looking after the rich elites and everyone else could go swivel.  Hmm… perhaps things haven’t changed that much after all.  In any event, the tide of history has steamrollered the old aristocracies and in their place has grown a polity of the proletariat.  And in general, a very good thing that is too.  Public health, public education, social welfare, the 40 hour week, etc etc etc… were all things that flowed from working class revolutionary activism and universal suffrage.  All of these required not just a review of the scope of government, but also a review of the scale.  If governments were going to make a point of promoting social welfare and not just military adventures then there is of  necessarily a concomitant  expansion of means to support the expansion of roles.

One unfortunately aspect of the tide of history though is that it is a rather disjointed and uneven affair.   While modern and enlightened things were happening on the one hand, conservative, chauvinistic, partisan politics remained in play as well.  Enough so that mobilizing entire nations and directing them towards Total War apparently seemed like a good idea at the time.  Not just once but twice, within the space of less than 50 years.  Apparently it was such a good idea the first time around, everyone lined up to have a second crack at it.  Well, maybe not for the plebs ground up in the carnage, but definitely for the government bureaucracies.  Money, power and personnel flowed to them in torrents.  In the space of less than half a century, in order to support war efforts, the institutions of government expanded into every sphere of public and private live.  Well, you might have expected that sort of domination from totalitarian regimes, but it happened just as surely in democratic countries as well.  That such a dramatic transformation could happen so quickly, with the acquiescence and then the continuing acceptance by the population should merit rather more questioning than it has I would have thought.  Apparently not, exigencies and blandishments form their own tide of history it seems.

So as the world entered into the second half of the 20th Century it did so comfortable with the concept of big government.  Presumably because there wasn’t generally seen to be any particular threat from that direction at all, and in-fact some distinct benefits to be had.  Not everyone was so sanguine, President Eisenhower – hero of WWII – left office with the sage warning to beware of the Military/industrial complex.  What gets left off of that warning is the piquant point that the Military/Industrial complex is the bastard child of Big Government, and not the only one either by any means.  But at the start, these children of the Titan were young, inexperienced and idealistic.  Fast forward a few years and Lyndon B. Johnson was still extolling the virtues of the “great society” that could be had from comprehensive social programs.  America was not alone, socialism of one flavor or another was definitely the idea de-Jour around the world.  What they all had in common, if nothing else, was Great Big government.  Big bureaucracies, big budgets and big spheres of authority – big and growing.  But by the 1980’s there were signs enough, of the malign potential of big government, that concerted efforts were made to throttle that growth.

The attempts even succeeded… after a fashion… for a while!   But the thing about big and complex constructions is that they are ultimately uncontrollable.  Unintended consequences creep in, the system evolves in unexpected, unplanned directions. And bureaucracies in particular have their own logic and imperatives that has nothing to do with the will of the managers.  Marching orders can be issued until you are blue in the face, and they will sink without a trace into the system.  The Titan will do what it is that the Titan does, and like a black hole it will warp the space around it to boot.  By now big government has had decades to grow and evolve until it either controls or influences everything, and we accept that as normal.  What’s more, our reaction to a problem or a crisis is to call for even more government intervention and control.  Even when just a modicum of analysis would indicate that more often than not our problems are self inflicted, what is the response?  The systems we employ create the problems in the first place, so apparently the solution to our problems is even more of the same?!!!

Albert Einstein reportedly said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing repeatedly, and yet expect to get a different result.  So, what do we actually want our system of government to do (well, there’s a bun fight in and of itself) and if it isn’t actually achieving our desired objectives, what are we going to do about it. So its not just what we are looking to do that needs critical attention, but also how we go about effecting that.  Big government has not been a conspicuous success, the costs end up being grossly disproportionate to any benefits, and in the most insidious ways.  Like some sort of existential pollution, the adverse effects are pawned off downstream so that they are somebody (anybody) else’s problems.  Any linkages can be denied and yet we all get to suffer amid the swill.  At one point automobiles were thought to be the best thing since sliced bread – until there were hundreds of millions of them, our roads became parking lots, the air becomes grey with the fumes and the price of oil rises sky high.  Ohh, and as an added twist, burning billions of tons of oil could well fundamentally alter the worlds climate and ecology.  You know, the things we rely on to actually survive.

Time, and past time, to wise up on things – how we do something is at least as important as what we do.  If we are digging ourselves into a hole, then it is time to stop digging.  The road we are on we seriously don’t want to go down.  Unfortunately it rather looks like we don’t have much of a choice at present, our past sins have caught up with us and we are going to have to pay the piper on a few outstanding bills.  But at the very least we can call time on the more obvious and egregious failures.  Specifically, stop enabling those things we do not want to encourage, stop feeding those things we do not want to grow.  Stop authorising governments unlimited access to money, they will do things with it that you do not want them doing.  Unfortunately it has become a habit, like a drug addiction, but it is one we will have to break before it breaks us.  Big government is not the way, rather it is a trap of our own creation.  There are other ways of doing things and we need to work them out and apply them sooner rather than later.  Our aspirations are worthy and legitimate, so too must be our means.  So while governments are here to stay, they need to be right sized, we needs must make them serve us, not us them.

 

 

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Saying

 

 

“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself.   But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.”    ~ Thomas Szasz 

 

“An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject”.  ~ Author unknown.

 

“A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.”   ~ Alexander Tyler, 1787

 

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.   ~Hanlon’s Razor

 

If you think nobody cares, try missing a few payments.   ~ Author unknown

 

Any man can handle adversity. If you want to test his character, give him power.  ~ Abraham Lincoln

 

Be careful going in search of adventure. It is ridiculously easy to find.  ~ *

 

To someone who understands, no discussion is necessary – 
To someone who does not, no argument is sufficient.  ~ *

 

Never try to teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and annoys the pig.  ~ *

 

Freedom isn’t Free, but its worth the price.  ~ *

 

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Addendum

 

Just a little additional information that ties in with some other parts of my thesis.

(Behind the Panic:  Financial Warfare over Future of Global Bank Power  ~by F. William Engdahl, 10 October 2008 )

“Paulson, and his friends at Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, had a strategy it is becoming clear, as did the Godfather of Asset Backed Securitization and deregulated banking, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan …. Knowing that at a certain juncture the pyramid of trillions of dollars of dubious sub-prime and other high risk home mortgage-based securities would come falling down, they apparently determined to spread the so-called ‘toxic waste’ ABS securities as globally as possible, in order to seduce the big global banks of the world, most especially of the EU, into their honey trap.

They had help. In recent testimony under oath by Mr Lynn Turner, Chief Accountant of the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) testified that the SEC Office of Risk Management which had oversight responsibility for the Credit Default Swap market, an exotic market worth nominally $62 trillions, was cut in Administration ‘budget cuts’ from a staff of one hundred people down to one person. Yes that was not a typo. One as in ‘uno.’

Vermont Democratic Congressman Peter Welsh queried Turner, ‘… was there a systematic depopulating of the regulatory force so that it was impossible actually for regulation to occur if you have one person in that office? …and then I understand that 146 people were cut from the enforcement division of the SEC, is that what you also testified to?’ Mr. Turner, in Congressional testimony replied, ‘Yes…I think there has been a systematic gutting, or whatever you want to call it, of the agency and it’s capability through cutting back of staff.’

Was that just ideological budget cutting fervor, or was it deliberate? Was the former Goldman Sachs man, the man who convinced the President to hire Paulson, Bush’s former Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Joshua Bolten, now the President’s Chief of Staff, responsible for insuring there was no effective government oversight on the exploding securitization of mortgage assets?” 

 

 

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Irredeemable

 

In my previous post “Why a Revolution?”, I mentioned several categories of systems and institutions that I classed as irredeemable.  This is a subject worthy of further development.   Irredeemable, how, why and who, I named my big three, but it is much bigger than that, and then there is the question of a specific remedy.  I might as well start with defining with Irredeemable, what makes it that and is there a quickfire method to identifying it and targeting it for attention.

 Often a necessary factor is bureaucracy.  That is as good a starting point as any, because while there are several unrelated areas that deserve attention, in general our social problems are self inflicted ills, from our own government – our system of government and the mechanisms of government.  Especially the bureaucracy of government.

 I am debating how deeply I should delve into the nature of bureaucratic systems.  In a way I probably only need to refer to Parkinson’s law and the Peter Principle to explain anything that needs explaining.  Albeit most people wont ever have read about these, couldn’t be bothered looking them up, and would prefer a nice succinct summary.  Well that’s human nature, and incidentally part of the problem with bureaucracies too by the way.  They tend to amplify and entrench certain human tendencies, attitudes and weaknesses.  And not the good ones either.

 Path of least resistance, passing the buck, covering your ass, empire building, entitlement, inward looking, management overkill, micromanagement, systems and processes, seniority, long service, hierarchical, old boys networks, hive mind, political interference, budget cycle obsession, patch protection…

 Interestingly enough, another one is also probably, the tendency towards over feminisation, ie women being grossly over represented in the headcount of bureaucratic institutions.  Albeit, there are benefits as well as hazards in that.  Generalising of course, but women are typically a conservative force socially.  Which can be a good and/or a bad thing, depending on the circumstances, in any event it can be a mechanism  for generating a consensus mindset.  Which can reinforce what is the natural tendency of a bureaucracy anyway.

Leave all that alone long enough to fester and ferment and supply it with a generous and constant flow of dollars and what you end up with is a monster.  It develops mass and momentum, self interst and protective instincts, an insatiable appetite, an instinct for perpetual growth and a compulsion for control.  Ultimately the greatest problem is that the original objectives for establishing a system or institution become lost in the process.  Those objectives are lost or neglected and self serving bureaucratic imperatives become the objective instead.  “1984” and “The Gulag Archipelago” were written about this sort of thing.  They are famous, or infamous, cautionary tales and if you still don’t know what I am talking about then go and read those books.

More to the point, if you think that we aren’t already a dangerously long way along the path to those scenarios, then you need to seriously pop your head up from whatever it is that you are focused on at the moment and take a good look around.  I am not going to delve too deeply into the whys and wherefores of it all, except to paraphrase a fairly famous saying – “some truths I hold to be self evident”.  Coming as it does from the people that it did and the document it is a part of, I wonder what those people would make of the current state of the country they founded.

 Rather closer to home, about a year ago it was stated that the health care system of our country had just surpassed 10,000 managers.  In a country of our size, apparently we need to have 10K (and growing) management positions in order to make the system work.   HELLO….. HELLO….  Is there anyone out there…..?????

Somehow that announcement just seemed to slip by without any comment at all really.  “Oohh well… what can you do….”

What you could do is storm Parliament with pitchforks and torches, guillotine a large number of people and pay a bit of intelligent attention to what is going on.  Maybe…?  Well apparently not yet, people aren’t of a state of mind to go to that sort of trouble – yet.  But perhaps part of the solution is shedding a bit more light on the issues and identifying the problem. 

You know, “know thine enemy”.

 In this case our enemy is the Irredeemable.  Those things that CAN NOT BE REDEEMED.  That is your enemy.  And to paraphrase again, “you may not know that its your enemy, but it definitely knows who you are” and sooner or later, one of you is going to be destroyed.  It behooves you to look up, look around and see what’s going on around you.  Stop watching TV, it is an irredeemable thing in and of itself anyway, and is a tool of the status quo as well.  (go to Amazon.com and look up “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television”, by Jerry Mander – read the comments and reviews)   And trust me, the status quo is NOT your friend.

 But back to our narrative, and having a bit more of a look at my big three; Political, Legal, Economic.  Without explicitly examining each of these individually here, I will do that in later posts, lets look at these in the system as a whole.  By that I mean, what does the political economy actually DO!

Well what it does is that it sets the rules and agenda within which everything works.  Typically with the stated objective of providing a social Good.  But Does it, and Can it?  Consider this, of every dollar that is paid to the government in tax, how much value is returned to the community and how much just evaporates as waste?  Of all the working people in an economy, how many are employed by the government?  Is the size of government getting smaller, bigger or static?  I don’t really need to answer those, we all actually know the answers already.  Government waste is legendary.  In general governments don’t produce anything, what they actually do is redistribute instead, and treasure evaporates every step of the way.  Inherently in a democratic system, the electorate votes itself largess from the public purse, and politicians survival imperatives are to pander to that.  Even prior to recent economic events, budgets, regulation and bureaucracy were subject to creeping incrementalism.  There is no practical ceiling to that, and in an emergency the first and immediate step is to appropriate more power and more money to subsidize, support and dissemble on any problems or issues.

 Guess what is happening right now with the current financial and economic crisis?  Billions are being shoveled into financial black holes to “save” the unsaveable.  Budget deficits are climbing exponentially and more and more of the economy is coming under government oversight, regulation, control or outright ownership.  For our own good of course, more laws to FIX the problems and more taxes to pay for it all.

Forgetting for the moment that government systems set the rules and agenda for our current situation and that ALL the current ills were already covered by a multitude of laws and regulations, that for some strange reason we somehow managed to specifically NOT apply in an appropriate and timely manner anyway.  Somehow thing just seem to have – got away on us.

If approximately 50% of the economy was the government to start with, and 50% of your income flows out as taxes of one sort or another already, Then where does even bigger government and higher taxes end up taking us?  At what point does Big, Bigger, Biggest government become effectively complete control.  The communists tried that didn’t they… and what a success that turned out to be!  Does 35, 25, 15% of the economy in private hands mean we are not REALLY slaves to the system? 

What would you bet that the small percentage that is left FREE is actually controlled by a small bunch of cronies who are cuddled up to the government anyway?

And here is the salient point…!!!

IS IT ACTUALLY POSSIBLE – IS THERE ANY PRACTICAL METHOD OR MECHANISM – BY WHICH THE CURRENT SYSTEM CAN OF ITS OWN VOLITION REVERSE OR CHANGE ITS PRESENT DIRECTION AND DESTINY???

 Of course not.  We already know where this is all heading.  All we can do is sit and watch it happen like a slow motion train wreck.

The system itself is Irredeemable, and the bigger it gets the worse it gets.

 How big and how bad does it have to get before we have to break it to stop it?

 

 

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Stats

According to the statistic counter, apparently there are some people actually reading my blog.

So thats very nice, thankyou all.   🙂

I guess though that that means I am actually going to have to continue to apply some discipline to this and write regularly.  I will do my best.

If you ever feel you have a comment you would like to make, or have a subject you think I should have a lash at writing about, feel free to write a comment to me.  I would love to get the feedback and maybe even get a bit of a debate going too.

Summer and the Xmas holidays haven’t made it very conducive to sitting at home in front of the computer, but I have been enjoying writing and publishing my posts.  I might just have to find a time of day to do it that isn’t so hot and humid though.

Hope you have all had a great Xmas, all my best for the new year.

Cheers   🙂

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So why a revolution, rather than any other action?   Considering the inherent dangers, what are the realistic possible results to be gained from a revolution.  There has to be some sort of cost/benefit analysis done somewhere.  And there has to be objectives that can’t be achieved any other way.  Arguably, anyone with the drive, determination and charisma that would be necessary to successfully prosecute a revolution, could be just as successful (if not more so) working within a democratic system.  Or could they?  It depends upon the objectives, the problems and the grievances.  

Typically, in one respect at least, the question never really arises.  By the time a revolution is fomenting and precipitant, the current system has blatantly failed to deliver required actions and remedies to extant problems.  You will be in the final stages of a failed state.  However, not necessarily – there are other motivations for revolutions, such as class divides and cultural divides.  The Iranian revolution was a classic cultural divide issue.  Arguably the French Revolution was a class divide.  the American revolution falls into a bit of a unique category.  In some ways there was no particularly obvious Casus Belli, British colonies in Canada managed to get along OK.  The Americans decided they wanted to do something different however, and the existing system wasn’t amenable to that apparently.  Albeit, an outside observer might well wonder what particular differences exist between Canada and America to justify revolution and a rather murderous little war to achieve it.  Who gets to make the decisions and control the money seems to have been the main point of dispute.   No question, America is definitely about the money, Jerry McQuire anyone…!  Although to be fair, Americans are passionate believers in democracy, they will hold elections for anything(American idol)   So there are some more reasons to consider; financial/management/control issues.

Which could actually be what the next revolution will be all about.  The Americans have managed to influence and shape the world so effectively to their model of political economy and financial management(or mismanagement as the case may be) that reaction to that may be the developing zeitgeist.  I am of the opinion that American mismanagement of their position of financial supremacy is a good 50/50 proposition for the sufficient conditions necessary for a revolution, even as far away as here in NZ.  But… we shall see.  Going out of an evening and seeing all the people wining and dining in the bars and restaurants suggests we are still a long way from severe economic depression.  And assuming that is the fate of the direction of things, there is still a way to travel yet to achieve it.

We still haven’t addressed the central question of why it would be necessary to break the system and start over though, rather then work from within it to reform it.  The answer in a word is “Irredeemable”, there are some things that are inherently irredeemable.  That means that anything that you do, cannot and will not achieve the desired results if you work within the system.   There is no end of systems and institutions that this applies to, but the big three are: Political, Legal, Economic.  It is inherent in the nature of bureaucracies and human psychology that situations of power and privilege will be captured and/or ossify.  While these systems will undeniable evolve and grow they will also increasingly become closed systems that work to exclude rather than include.  Even when it is the law of unintended consequences, bad decisions and systems will be protected and supported rather than terminated.  There are too many vested interests at play.  The bigger the system, the more mass and momentum invested in the status quo and the more that an evil consequence can be ignored as insignificant or condoned as unavoidable.  Perhaps the most perfidious evil is when the cost and consequence is some-one else’s problem.  Shuffle the costs on down-stream to somebody else and then there is no limit to how bad things can get. When things that are bad end up getting worse because of policies that are actively being pursued, but at no direct cost to the initiator, there can be no real motivation to reform.

Which is where the real issues lay.  It is inherent in human nature to resist reforms and change. Particularly with the types of people who inherently gravitate towards bureaucratic and accounting types of systems.  Unsurprisingly the institutions they work in and promote reflect that too, and doubly so.  They ultimately become self interested, self serving, defensive, authoritarian and dehumanising.  Anyone who has had the privilege of working for a large Corporation or Government department will know exactly what I am talking about.  Their dynamic is to continually grow and to become inwardly focused.  Regardless of the deleterious effects both on the larger environment and even for the vast majority of the people within them too.  There will be a subset that do very nicely out of all  this, thankyou very much!  Que – ossification!  Gotta lock in them benefits.  Both for the people within the system, particularly the elite, and therefore ipso-facto the system itself, the prime motivation is to secure the benefits and export the harm.  Anything and everything else becomes, at best, secondary.

This is not a system that can be reformed.  It may start out beneficent, but once the evolution of this process passes a certain point there is no turning back.  Breaking it – is the only remedy.  To leave these systems in place is to ensure the actual promotion of harmful, even evil, consequences.  There is even an expression to describe it – the banality of evil – it is not something that is done by shrieking demons and monsters, it is done by faceless, anonymous minion of a careless grinding system.  And the sacrifices in lives, hopes and treasure does not ultimately improve anything, those are just resources to be squandered in the pursuit of undefined, unplanned and undesirable objectives.  The unintended consequences multiply until they swamp the initial aspirations.  Ultimately these institutions become too big to be controlled either from within or from without, they cannot be reformed, they cannot be contained or stopped. They are irredeemable – they can only be broken, deleted and over-written.

When the systems are the State and the State is the problem, then in the end the only answer is Revolution.  Tear down and rebuild from scratch.  The benefit comes twofold, preventing the harm, self inflicted, under the old regime, and reopening opportunities that have become locked out and denied.  Aspiration is what dies when the irredeemable is in control.  I have a friend who wants to get a T-shirt with the slogan on it saying “There is no point to anything”.  We need to believe that there is a point, things can change and that we do matter, we can achieve, succeed and make a difference.  Do you feel like that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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